Transition 2019, Newlyn gallery, Cornwall

With Soraya Smithson and other artists, architects, musicians and poets, we explored the correlations between the writing of poetry, the putting on of exhibitions and the architecture of the written word and space.

Co hosts: Soraya Smithson, Victoria Smith, Tom Ebdon, Naomi Frears, Ella Frears, Blair Todd

 

 

We started with a blank canvas – an empty , white gallery space.  We invited the public to help us fill the space with text, stories, memories, drawings, words, notations, sculptures, plaster casts, weavings, peepshows, poems and music.  A new theme was developed each day, building on the makings and doings of the day before, so that by the final day the space was alive with new objects and poetry, the results of the week’s work, layered and collaged into the space.

 

FOREIGN BODIES, an exhibition at Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street, Cambridge

 

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ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Victoria Smith and Bay Lees’ family were planters in India where, for three generations and seventy years, they lived and worked. The Browne family left India in 1947 after Indian Independence, suffering irreversibly from the disasters of two World Wars and the catastrophic collapse of tea prices during the 1930’s. The estates then passed into Indian hands and continue to be expertly managed by Badra Estates.

This exhibition looks at the impact of their forbears on the landscape of South India and examines the relationship we have to objects that speak to us of home, especially when we are foreigners in another land.

Read and see more: https://victoriasmithart.site/portfolio/

 

 

Landscape bought by current owner of Kerkicoondah coffee estate

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Jacob Mammen, managing director of Badra Estates, India, standing with me in front of the landscape that he bought, “Sunset from Elephant Hill”.  Behind us, at the top, is the picture of the same view painted by my great grandmother, Ellen Browne.

It is thrilling for me to think that my landscape is being taken to India to be hung in the sitting room of the estate bungalow built by my great grandfather, Charles Herbert Browne, in the 1890s. This is now Jacob’s private house, and has been in his family for 70 years – almost as long as it was owned by the Browne family.

Particular Places

An exhibition at Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury

15 September – 15 December 2017

Felted landscapes by Victoria Smith, paintings by Gabrielle Nesfield, prints by Bay Lees, photographs by Oliver Smith

Bay holding Ellens painting Elephant Hill

The Red Earth of Kerkiecoondah, Karnataka, India

When I, together with my sister Bay Lees and my husband Oli Smith, visited India in 2016, we took a trip up Elephant Hill to seek out this view that had been painted by our great-grandmother, Ellen Browne, over the ancestral coffee estates.  I was unprepared for the intense emotional impact that this would have on me. Our father and his forefathers, who had known this land so intimately, stood alongside us as ghosts in this very particular place, as we looked out over this, their landscape.

This heritage forms the basis of my textile explorations.

https://victoriasmithart.site/portfolio/particular-places/

The Great British Cuppa

The industrialising Victorians were a thirsty bunch and a cheap source of tea was needed to fuel the factory workers in the second half of the nineteenth-century. Tea, with milk and sugar, had replaced beer as the beverage of choice – it was non-alcoholic, therefore safer for machine operatives, nutritious and refreshing. Thus was the Great British Cuppa born.

The Tea Trade

By the mid-nineteenth-century, due to British involvement in the opium wars, things had become tricky with China, who controlled the tea trade. An alternative source of tea needed to be found quickly and the mountainous districts of India provided just the right climate and soil. Thus was the Indian tea trade established.

Nineteenth-Century Pioneer Planters

In Mysore State, South India, enterprising young adventurers from Europe were encouraged to seek their fortunes by becoming planters. Whatever land they had under cultivation within three years was theirs to keep for one rupee an acre, payable to the Maharaja of Mysore. This is how the Browne family came to be in India.

Seventy Years of Browne Family Planters in India

In 1876, our nineteen-year-old great-grandfather, Charles Herbert Browne, set sail from Ramsgate for Bombay, to learn planting from a veteran planter and to build a life for himself. Ten years later, with the help of elephants and many local people, he had cleared a thousand acres of jungle, laid roads, built a smart bungalow for himself and planted millions of tea and coffee plants. His estate, still known as Kerkiecoondah, prospered and developed.

CHB, as he was affectionately known, was a charming, energetic and enterprising young man, unafraid of hard physical work. When he was thirty, having been in India for only eleven years, he was considered old enough and wealthy enough to marry, so he came back to England to find himself a wife. Ellen and Charles were married in Walmer, Kent and returned together to India, where Ellen gave birth to six children in their bungalow at Kerkiecoondah. Four of these children stayed on to become planters themselves, raising families of their own, and, in the case of our grandmother, dying and being buried there.

India became their home. For three generations and seventy years they lived and worked there. The Browne family left India in 1947 after Indian Independence, suffering irreversibly from the disasters of two World Wars and the catastrophic collapse of tea prices during the 1930s. The estates then passed into Indian hands and continue to be expertly managed by Badra Estates.

    

Blue Moon

I was invited to show papercuts and artist’s books at Elspeth Owen’s Open Studios in Grantchester, July 2014. This series of books, cuts and prints celebrates the blue moon during August 2014, when I took a blue photo everyday for a month between the full moons and mounted them into a concertina cut-out book. I also made a series of prints and  some little concertina books using the blue insides of envelopes.

Blue Moon blue papercut book